The Warrington Group Chairman’s Dinner was attended by over 70 Freemasons who enjoyed the company of the principal guests, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning, Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Tony Bent and Kevin Poynton and Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Barry Jameson.
Following a welcome from Malcolm Bell (director of ceremonies), he called upon Ken Smith to say grace. An excellent three course meal was served by the Masonic hall staff which comprised of trout fillet on a watercress salad, medallions of pork, tarragon and shallot sauce served with gratin dauphinoise potatoes and seasonal vegetables, caramelised passion fruit and lime tart, followed by tea or coffee. Ken then returned thanks and group chairman Andy Barton proposed the loyal toast.
Lee Marsh (group official) proposed a toast to Philip Gunning, also thanking him for taking the time out of his very busy schedule and highlighting the many west coast line journeys Philip makes from the Province to London.
Philip responded to the toast saying that he was delighted to be in Warrington sharing the evening with the group, the group executives and brethren. He continued by intimating that the West Lancashire Province was well thought of in the larger picture of Freemasonry in England. He noted that Freemasonry is encouraged to be involved in the community and particularly at civil level and quoted one of the group’s recent stories on the website of the group giving day where a local MP and Mayor were present, at which £53,619 was given and with almost £26,000 being given to non-Masonic charities and good causes in the local area, saying it stands out and cannot fail to be noted.
Other instances where the West Lancashire Province is at the forefront were mentioned by Philip, including mentoring, membership and care, saying all these wonderful things are coming from the brethren of the Province, he thanked all for the part they play in Freemasonry. He congratulated those brethren who had just received their first Provincial appointment or promotions.
The hall catering staff were complemented by Philip for providing an excellent meal. He thanked the group executives; Andy Barton (chairman), Chris Gleave (vice chairman) and John McIntyre (secretary), saying he is always made welcome in Warrington. He closed by thanking Lee for the toast and the brethren for the way it was received.
Jonathan Heaton, Provincial Junior Grand Warden proposed the toast to the Warrington Group of Lodges and Chapters. He started by saying that the Masonic hall was built in 1933 and how great it is because it’s a fantastic facility even though it was built over 80 years ago. Jonathan was very complementary regarding the facilities and the food at the hall. He continued by recapping the events of the year, this being Andy’s first year as chairman. He commented on one highlight when Lodge of Lights No 148 celebrated its 250 year anniversary, when the lodge received Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, adding that an exceptional donation to charity of £14,800 was made at the event. He congratulated John Gregory on being promoted at the event to PPrJGW. Jonathan continued by saying that he thought the celebrations may be continuing because Elias Ashmole Chapter No 148 would be celebrating its 150 year anniversary in September. He complemented the museum saying what a wonderful asset it is. A considerable amount of work to gain charity status has already been undertaken; he wished Vic Charlesworth, Caroline Crook and Barry Jameson with his board of trustees every success as they proceed towards accreditation. He said it was a testament to our past, our present and an advertisement to the longevity of our future.
Jonathan said the year culminated in the giving day which supported many local charities; he added that support for the community is one of the finest things about Freemasonry. He also wished Vic every success with planning for the tercentenary celebrations for next year. He concluded by proposing the toast to the Warrington Group of Lodges and Chapters.
Andy Barton, in his chairman’s response, said it gave him a great deal of pleasure to be able to respond to the toast so ably given by Jonathan Heaton. He extended a warm welcome to Philip Gunning saying they are honoured by his presence this evening. He also extended a warm welcome to other distinguished guests and formally welcomed his colleagues from other groups; group chairmen, Mike Adams from South Eastern Group, Derek Williams from Widnes Group, Colin Rowling from St Helens and Prescot Group and Andy Whittle from Woolton Group, who were accompanied by their group executive. He was honoured by their presence and thanked them all for the support and friendship they had afforded him, particularly over the first year of his chairmanship.
He wanted to take the opportunity to thank the staff of the Warrington Masonic Hall Company, for not only providing everyone with a wonderful meal, but for all they do for all throughout the year. Andy said: “We have a wonderful Masonic hall here in Warrington and the staff make it complete.”
In his first year as chairman he was all too aware that sweeping changes in the group were unnecessary as we have many talented people in office. There have however been one or two changes due to people wishing to retire. In July 2015, Derek Hazlehurst informed him of his intention to retire as our Ecclesholme representative after four years of dedicated service to that office. In March 2016, Andrew Young also expressed a desire to retire as our webmaster after seven years service. To these brethren he extended his sincere thanks for their dedication to the Warrington Group. He was pleased to say that both those positions have been filled; Les Savage as Ecclesholme representative and Chris Kozlik as webmaster. He extended his thanks to both members.
Andy said an area of the group which did concern him was that of group publicity officer. John Starkey’s workload was becoming unreasonable and it was extremely obvious that he needed support. He decided that the group would benefit from having two group correspondents and was pleased to say Derek Houghton and Eric Miller have accepted the offices and are looking forward to carrying out their duties. He could not emphasise enough the importance he places on the work done by this team. Their efforts, skill and ability to produce interesting reports show to the world the work we do and the enjoyment we have doing it.
Reporting to the group secretary, Andy had appointed Chris Betts as data administrator. Chris will be assisted by Mathew Ross. It is their responsibility to create and maintain a database, essential for the smooth running of the group.
Andy thanked all the officers of the group for their hard work and efforts which make Warrington Group so successful. Regarding the future, Andy said we have many things to look forward to. Last December he was able to announce that the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry had gained charitable status and he believes that they are on their way to achieving accreditation. This will be an amazing achievement. He thanked Barry Jameson, Vic Charlesworth, Caroline Crook and their team for all of their efforts and wished them success with the application.
Celebration preparations for the tercentenary are progressing well. The committee, headed by Vic Charlesworth, have a number of events planned for 2017. At the group ball in February the lodge banners will be on display and hopefully, with permission, formal regalia will be worn. He was certain that it will be a special evening of celebration. A trip to Great Queen Street is planned as well as many other events to look forward to.
Looking back at his first year, an event which he was very proud to be a part of was the celebration of the 250 year anniversary of the Lodge of Lights, where everyone enjoyed the company of the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, our own Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning and many other distinguished guests. For Andrew it was one of the highlights of 2015. The only downside was that the date happened to fall on 23 November, which is his wife Kath’s birthday. A very expensive trip to Venice had to be organised to compensate, along with the purchase of a pair of genuine Chanel earrings.
Andy thanked Chris Gleave and John McIntyre, for keeping him on the straight and narrow and making sure that he was in the right place at the right time and doing the things he needed to do. Concluding, Andy said being chairman of a group like Warrington is made easier by the quality and commitment of its members and collectively he thanked everyone.
Finally he thanked Jonathan Heaton for the warmth of his toast to the Warrington Group and the brethren for their kind reception of it. Andy presented Philip with a bouquet saying thank you for attending, Philip thanked Andy saying it was a delight and thanked the group for their generosity.
The very enjoyable and successful evening was brought to a close by Bill Wainwright giving the tyler’s toast.